The Dublin Climate Dialogues will call for bolder climate action on a global scale and seek to set how this might be done, former European Parliament president Pat Cox, who is chairing the proceedings, has said.
With support from the Government, he confirmed the event will conclude on Thursday with a declaration to be handed over the UK government, which is hosting the critical UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
“As individuals we are not bystanders, each in our own way is an actor in this great human and planetary drama,” he said.
“Our hope through these dialogues is to stimulate and reinforce not just interest in the global warming issue but also to encourage action, be that personal, community, corporate or institutional. Talking matters to spread the message. Action matters more to achieve the necessary outcomes.”
Taking place six months before COP26, Mr Cox believed the Dublin gathering would assist the UK COP26 presidency.
“In this way we are connecting our contributors, our audience and their ideas to the wider decision making process, not with lofty presumption but with a grounded sense that we are adding the thread of our conversations and consciousness to the weave that will be the product of COP26,” he said.
The conference will be opened by US climate envoy John Kerry, who will outline why this is such an important year in addressing climate crisis, and how a strong COP26 outcome could improve chances of containing global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees.
Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan is expected to outline how Ireland is currently "working out" the first half of the road to net-zero emissions, and to underline the need for "the talk of the past five to 10 years" to be replaced by action.
The next 10 years will see Ireland mobilise “to create a better society, a sustainable society, a local society and a biodiverse society,” Mr Ryan will say. “The architecture is already established and the goals are clear, we just need to get on and deliver it.”
DCD will hear new analysis on the costs of damage to the planet and to human health from global overheating. But it will also set what can be achieved by timely, massive investment by governments and the private sector as renewable energy declines in price over coming decades.
With countries at different levels of development, the conference has a series on sessions on climate justice and on what developed countries need to do to support adaptation and to build resilience in climate-vulnerable states.
Speaking in advance of appearing at the virtual event, energy analyst Michael Liebreich, who is also an advisor to the UK Board of Trade, said he was hopeful of a strong outcome at COP26 because of the requirement in the Paris agreement that countries must step up ambition.
“COP26 in Glasgow is pretty much guaranteed to be a success, and not just because President Biden has come back to the table,” he added.
When the Paris Agreement was signed, sceptics derided it because it was neither binding nor particularly ambitious, Mr Liebreich noted. “But it contained a clever provision, a ratchet that meant every five years countries were expected to up their commitments. Well that was five years ago - and in Glasgow we are going to see it at work,” he said.
Countries representing 78 per cent of the global economy had already announced plans to get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or, in the case of China and Brazil, 2060.
Glasgow will be all about turning the net-zero rhetoric into more detailed plans, and there should be plenty to cheer, he predicted. “Will it be enough to keep the planet within the 1.5-degree aspirational target in the Paris Agreement? No - sadly that one is probably unachievable. But we are only tracking about half a degree above Paris’s hard target of 2 degrees by 2100, so there is plenty to play for.”
COP26 needs to deliver clear and ambitious targets with a strong implementation framework to ensure Ireland - and other States - can transition to clean energy, said DCD participant Prof Andrew Keane of UCD Energy Institute.
“Change will not happen overnight, and - as we have seen with electric vehicles – it can take a long time to put the necessary infrastructure in place,” he added. “International collaboration, political will and financial support will be crucial. That is why COP26 needs to deliver clear and ambitious targets with a strong implementation framework to ensure governments can work together to deliver the required infrastructure.”
Scaling up offshore wind and interconnectors to Europe could play a major role in decarbonising the Irish energy sector but also the whole economy, Prof Keane said.
“There is a huge economic opportunity for Ireland as a major exporter of energy, either through electricity interconnection or green hydrogen. But we need to act fast to capitalise on this potential, and to ensure our long-term decarbonisation.”
DCD is free to the public but registration is required at www.dublinclimatedialogues.com